New artificial ovaries for preserving fertility in women with cancer

A group of doctors in Copenhagen has developed an “artificial ovary” using eggs and human tissue for helping women to conceive children after receiving treatments for cancer and other fertility-damaging therapies.

The team discovered that a laboratory-made ovary can keep eggs of humans alive for several weeks. This new finding could most expectantly help women one day to have families even after receiving harsh treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy. These artificial ovaries could even help the women having health conditions like the blood ailment beta thalassemia or multiple sclerosis, which usually need dynamic fertility-harming treatments.

The fertility-affecting therapies could usually leave the ovaries damaged and make women infertile for the rest of the life. In these conditions, the solution is transplantation of a tissue of the ovary. In this process, all or just a portion of a woman’s ovary is eliminated and frozen just before it gets damaged. This portion could then be used later when the woman wants to conceive.

This is perhaps the only treatment for preserving fertility in women. However, this comes with a risk. The ovarian tissue of cancer patients could consist of cancerous cells. This could result in the disease returning back again after the transplant. Although the risk is quite low, yet women with specific kinds of cancer could not get this treatment.

For this reason, the doctors believe that the new discovery of artificial ovary holds good and is a safer treatment. For making the artificial ovary, the doctors reportedly stripped off the cells from the donated ovarian tissues using chemicals. This procedure produced bare tissues known as “scaffold” consisting mostly of collagen that is basically the protein, which provides skin strength. This scaffold was then seeded with numerous human follicles, which are tiny sacs holding early-stage eggs.

Susanne Pors at the Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen said in a statement, “This is the first proof that we can actually support these egg cells. It’s an important step along the road.”  Further, she added, “But it will be many years before we can put this into a woman.” It would most expectantly take about five to ten years of rigorous work before the artificial ovaries get completely prepared for human use.

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